When I got an email in my inbox from the delightful Mr Derek Vasconi asking ‘Would you be interested in reviewing my Japanese horror fiction book?’, I immediately said “yes!” because it was a high time I branched out into a genre that normally keeps me hidden behind the sofa all evening. If, like me, you steer clear of horror films as a general rule, the good news is you can still enjoy this genre through the magic medium of books.
This brings me nicely to introducing October’s Book of the Month, KAI by Derek Vasconi. Technically, publication date is January 2016 but you can get your hands on either the print or e-book early by heading over to Derek’s crowd funding page. What’s the goal? To raise enough money for not only an initial print run but a screenplay adaption! Having now read KAI, I can honestly say this novel has great potential and it’s fantastic to see a fellow writer and Japanophile pursuing this ambitious goal, so do head over to the page and get yourself an early copy of KAI.
The story of KAI alternates between the lives of Seul-Bi, an orphaned Korean young woman living in Chicago and high school student Satsuki in Hiroshima. While Seul-Bi struggles to move on from her adopted parents’ death and care for her patients in a psychiatric hospital, Satsuki withdraws to her room after a tragic incident and vows revenge on the world. What connects these two very different people living on opposite sides of the world? Well, the answer certainly doesn’t jump out at your on the first page… and it wouldn’t be a very good story if it did!
At the same time, the ‘horror’ element of KAI doesn’t really come to the surface until around halfway through the story, which is very effective because it knocks you completely off guard when it finally does. The second half is certainly more gruesome and horrific but there is the question of what links Seul-Bi and Satsuki running through it the whole time. This story is as much a mystery as a horror novel, and it will still keep you wondering when you’ve reached the end!
What I particularly like about KAI is the scene setting. You can tell the author has lived in Japan and paints a lovely picture of this beautiful country, and worked in psychology from the way he paints mental trauma and disturbance. Vasconi’s writing is very atmospheric and at times uncomfortable and gruesome, but you shouldn’t expect anything less from a horror novel.
Whether you want to branch out into horror fiction or already a fan, KAI is well worth a read. It’s well-told, intriguing and will keep you guessing long after you’ve finished. Plus, when the horror kicks in, it really kicks in!